Owo Church Attack: 'They shot choirmaster in my front', survivor narrates as she marks birthday

By Dayo Johnson, Akure

The 5th, of June, 2023, was indeed a black Sunday, not only for Ondo state, the Yoruba, but the entire Nigeria nation.

The reckless wastage of defenceless worshippers by terrorists at St Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo state last Sunday at the peak of a mass was callous and unarguably a deadly message to the Southwest.

Peace, hitherto enjoyed in the region following the ban on open grazing and the establishment  of Amotekun, the regional security outfit in Yorubaland was tampered  with as blood, tears and sorrow enveloped the ancient town of Owo. No doubt, the region has been thrown into fear and confusion by last week’s ugly incident.

More than 40 innocent worshippers, including children, men and women, nursing mothers were murdered in cold blood by gunmen, as they gathered for Pentecost day on Sunday at about 11:15 am. In some cases some families were wiped out.

It’s of note that the attackers ‘launched’ their operation in Ondo, most vocal state against herdsmen attacks and menace of open grazing. It is the state governed by the Generalissimo of Amotekun.

Indigenes say the deadly attack was deliberate and intended to turn the southwest into  another wasteland, following the successes recorded by the state Amotekun since it’s establishment in the state by governor Rotimi Akeredolu.

That the gunmen chose to launch their dastardly attack in the home town of the chairman of the SouthWest Governor’s Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu and the Palace of the paramount traditional ruler of the town, the Olowo of Owo,Oba Ajibade Ogunoye, which is less than 200 adds weight to the news making the rounds that the attackers were on a mission to counter government anti-open grazing policies.

Indigenes insist the operation was intentionally to cow Akeredolu for his principled stands on issues of national interest.

Recall that Akeredolu, rallied his colleagues in the region to evict the herdsmen from government forest reserves and enacted law banning open grazing and also proceeded to establish a  security architecture, codenamed Amotekun. Other governor’s have since structured their state security outfit after Amotekun because of the successes recorded so far.

All these put together and Akeredolu’s insistence that the impunity and unholy activities of herdsmen in the state were, according to residents led the gunmen to react with Sunday’s operation.

Corroborating this, the member of the state House of Assembly representing Owo Constituency 11, Hon  Olayemi  Adeyemi, identified the herdsmen as the perpetrators of the attack.

Hon Adeyemi said “  the attack was a reprisal aimed at sending a message to Governor Akeredolu who chased away violent Fulani pastoralists from the area.

“Locals around the church premises saw the attackers who were on the run after unleashing the horrific act on the church.

“ They were armed herdsmen from the Fulani extraction, a tribe accused of spearheading insecurity across the country.

“Fulani herdsmen entered our community and started shooting, they killed several people and dozens were severely injured.

“We had enjoyed improved security since herdsmen were driven away from our forests by this administration,” This is a reprisal attack to send a diabolical message to the governor.” 

Meanwhile, Nigerians across the country, in their reactions have condemned the attack and encouraged governor Rotimi Akeredolu, not to be distracted or cowed by the attack ostensibly targeted at him for being vocal and principled.

In it’s reaction, the Pan Yoruba Socio-Political Group, Afenifere “ lamented that the present administration was “helpless and irresponsible in securing life and property, an irrefutable sign of the failure of the Nigerian State.’

It’s General Secretary, Chief Sola Ebiseni declared that “ the horrendous incident at the St. Francis Catholic Church in the ancient Yoruba city of   Owo, Ondo State, is not just an attack   on the Church and   the psyche of all decent people all over the   world but also a deliberate show at testing   the self-defence strength of the Yoruba people in resisting the importation   of the horrible culture of violence into our land.

Ebiseni lauded   Akeredolu “who, in spite of all constitutional odds, has held his head high on the issue of our people’s security.

Another Chieftain of Afenifere, the  National organising secretary, Abagun Kole Omololu, was more direct as he said that “  the massacre in Owo Catholic church was a direct attack on Yoruba land.

“It was directed at gov Rotimi Akeredolu for his unflinching support for security in Yoruba land by championing the Amatekun security outfits, his stringent upholding of the anti- open grazing law and for his “ big mouth” about Southern co-operation for equity and justice in Nigeria.

“We will not succumb into terrorist threat or attack, they will not be allowed to bring down our civilisation.

“This attack is to cause confusion and war. We should not play into their hands.    

Killers are enemies of God — Ooni of Ife

Also, the Ooni of lfe, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, who described the attack as barbaric said “the Yoruba cannot be overrun by anyone.”

While describing the incident as a gruesome massacre dastardly targeted at turning Yorubaland to a war zone, the monarch said Yoruba people have the capacity to defend themselves even though they are peace-loving.

Oba  Ogunwusi warned against plan by a group of bloodsucking enemies of God who had vowed to destabilise the Southwest region.

“ There have been reports that some criminals are currently working to invade and wreak havoc in Yorubaland like the one that just happened in Owo.

“When calamities like this one befall us without a single trace, the interpretation is that the intelligence unit of our country’s security architecture is probably faulty or completely missing.

“However, we the descendants of Oduduwa cannot be overrun in our own home as we are prepared and ready to defend ourselves against external invaders.

“The six governors across the south west region and their brothers nationwide as well as the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government, should live up to their oaths of securing Nigerians and ensuring safety for the citizenry.”

It’s an affront on  Yoruba nation — Olubadan

Also condemning the killings, the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Lekan Balogun, said such wicked act must be the last in the Southwest.

“This is not time to seek political correctness at the detriment of the people that elected you into offices as their governors. It is time to prioritize the safety of lives and property, because, you are first a Yoruba person before becoming a Nigerian.

Akeredolu who directed flying of flags at  half-mast in honour  of victims, vowed not to bow to terror.

The governor said the attack on innocent worshipers was a deliberate and calculated assault on the people of the state.

We’ll fish out  perpetrators, bring  them to book — Agbekoya

The Agbekoya Farmers Society of Nigeria, reiterated its commitment to “defend Yoruba land from the incursions of the criminal Fulani bandits and kidnappers.

“We also want to assure sons and daughters of Yoruba land of our resolve to fish out the perpetrators of Owo Catholic Church brutal killing of innocent Nigerians and bring them to book.

Killers are animals in human skin, says Akeredolu

Governor Akeredolu while receiving  Catholic Bishops from the South-West, led by  Reverend Leke Abegunrin, said “What we witnessed in Owo on that Sunday, I have been looking for a word to describe it but I’m not too sure I can find one because it is indescribable.

“There is no word to describe it. If you say horrific, dastardly, horrendous, all those ones are common words and we use them for many things.

“But I have been looking for a better word to use because we have witnessed barbaric elements, animals in human skin.

“If you are humans you would not do what they have done. May be there are areas where they will do such a thing and they are not worried.

“But here, we’re are worried because it is not something we are used to. Human life means a lot to us.

Bishop Abegunrin, in his response, said “It is very painful, it can provoke people to retaliate and do what is ungodly but we are people of faith; we leave everything to God to judge but humanly speaking, we heard what you have been doing in the state and the promise that those people who did this havoc to us will be brought to book before long; we are happy about that.”

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